Tips to avoid four of the biggest online dating scams: Internet ScamBusters #251
Today we focus on online dating dating scams. Although some
of these scams are certainly predictable, others are less so
(especially the third and fourth scams). Naturally, we offer
tips to help you protect yourself from these online dating
However, before we begin, you may want to spend a moment
looking at this week’s most popular articles from our other
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Now, here we go…
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart: The Top Four Online Dating Scams
Could your soul mate be waiting for you somewhere out there in
cyberspace? And if so, how can you avoid dating scams that
might lurk there as well?
If you’ve ever been tempted to try online dating, you’re not
alone. An Online Publishers Association study showed U.S.
residents paid $600 million on online dating and personals in
2006, capturing the largest segment of paid content anywhere
on the World Wide Web.
Online dating scams range from minor white lies to outright
thievery. Here are the four most common dating scams and what
you can do to avoid them.
1. Not Who You’re Supposed to Be
Just like face-to-face dating, singles online try to put their
best foot forward. But online dates have the advantage of
hiding behind a computer, making them seem a whole lot
“dreamier” than they really are. An unpleasant surprise can
often feel like — or be — a scam.
Trust your gut. If something sounds wrong — like a lawyer who
says he’s 35 years old but has 25 years of professional
experience — start asking questions.
If you’re concerned about the person’s age ask him/her to send
a recent photo. (Realize, of course, that the “recent”
picture they send may not truly be recent — or it may not
even be a picture of your “date.”)
Also, protect yourself from people who might be emotionally
unstable. Until you get to know your date better, conceal your
personal information, agree to meet only in public and always
let a friend know where you will be.
Online Dating Magazine suggests these tactics:
Set up an anonymous email account from an email service. Be
sure to change your account information to not give out your
full name. This protects your privacy more as it’s fairly easy
to get information on a person from an email address that
you’ve used for years.
Use your cell phone number. A person armed with your home
phone number can find your home address in just a few clicks.
(Scammers may be able to find your address from a cell phone
number, but it is more difficult.)
Drive yourself to the date destination. Your date need not
know where you live until you know him better. Also, you can
control when you want to end the evening.
Pay half of the bill. Although this is often not an issue,
it’s much safer to not have your date expect something in
return for paying the bill.
2. Married On the Side
An MSNBC article found one third of men dating online are
married! (We don’t know the statistics for women.)
Although it’s often very difficult to know whether or not
someone is married, here are four tips to help you spot the
Your date posts an online picture that is very dark and
makes it difficult to pick her out of a crowd. Most married
people do not want their picture out there for everyone to
see, risking the chance that someone they know could recognize
Your date requests your phone number but doesn’t give you
his in return. A married partner may call you from a phone
other then a home phone, or use a blocking feature when they
Your date calls at either very irregular or very set times.
A married person would have to call at her own convenience,
scheduling it around her regular life. Notice if you always
have to leave a message or if your partner only returns calls
after long periods of time. If your partner always calls at
exactly the same time, it may be she is calling from work
during a break to avoid detection by a spouse.
As you become close, your date won’t reveal his last name
and does not introduce you to friends or family. Married
people will steer clear of contact with people they know and
from conversations about their family and upbringing. Ask
yourself what it may be he is trying to hide.
3. Not a Date At All – The Email Scam
Some online dating scams aren’t dates at all, but a scam to
hit you up with marketing emails or other spam.
This annoying online danger usually happens when you first
create your online profile and start chatting with other
members. You’re asked almost instantly for your email address
and are suddenly inundated with spam. You never hear from the
The solution? Don’t give out your email address before you’re
certain of who you’re dealing with. And then use a separate
address (as we suggested above) that you can easily cancel if
you start to get a lot of spam.
4. The Online Dating Shakedown
Certainly the most common serious, and perhaps the most
hurtful, the shakedown is an online dating scam usually run by
an overseas woman (or even more common, a man posing as a
The person pretends to get to know you and like you. At some
point “she” asks for money, sometimes in order to come visit
you or because someone is ill. You wire the money but never
hear from her again.
Fortunately, this scam is easy to avoid. Steer clear of any
date that asks you to send her money.
Finally, if a person’s emails don’t seem to be following
earlier conversations or contradict things that were already
said, it could be your “dream date” is using a scripted
seduction, copied from a previous target.
Dating scams are probably as old as civilization itself. But
like all things driven down the information super highway,
online dating is one way dating scams have picked up speed.
Watch for the warning signs we described above, and check out this
article for more info on avoiding
online dating scams.
Also, the third scam victim’s story
here is a good example of the fourth online dating scam.
That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!